Teacher talking time in your English language classroom

Attention span chart
Teacher talking time is often forgotten. Teacher talking time is particularly relevant when teaching English to foreigners because it stops your students from talking. Teacher talking time can de-motivate and confuse your students if not used correctly.

Controlled teacher talking time is important for keeping your students focussed and motivated.

If what you are saying is not engaging your students, there is a good chance that you will lose most of your students’ Attention after 10 seconds. The graph shows results for content engagement. Getting people’s Attention follows the same mechanics whether the content is on YouTube or delivered by a teacher in a classroom. The content has to be understandable, exciting and relevant.

Make sure that your teacher talking time follows the following guidelines.

Keep teacher talking time language brief and straightforward

Look at this example of what not to do during teacher talking time.

What the teacher says

“Now let’s see Peter, if you have finished, why don’t you talk with Mary here about what you discussed earlier after I had told you the story and then you can both write a story together based on my story’s original title.”

What the student hears

“Blah blah blah Peter”. Follow by “blah blah blah blah blah Mary blah blah blah you blah blah blah blah”, and lots more blahs.


Teacher talking time Language Dos

  • DO use simple language when giving instructions and explanations.
  • DO use simple imperatives (stand up, write, close, open) followed by please if you want to be polite.
  • DO use precise gestures, mime and visuals whenever possible to clarify your points.
  • DO check your students’ understanding often.
  • DO make it brief.
  • DO rehearse and time some of what you will say before you teach.

If what you want to explain or present takes a long time, you try to do too much. Instead, split things up into smaller chunks that your students can understand.

Teacher talking time

  • DO NOT begin instructions with “If . . . “
  • DO NOT use modals (e.g. might, would, etc.)
  • DO NOT use conditionals (“If you could open your books now.”)
  • DO NOT use phrasal verbs (“Let us see what we have come to.”)
  • DO NOT use complex relative clauses (“For those of you who have finished early, can you please work with your partners now.”)
  • DO NOT use slang, complicated words, or unexplained acronyms (“Let’s check out this article about the inception of LBOs.”)
  • DO NOT stack questions (Who is going to the circus? Who is he going with? Where is the circus, and how much is a ticket?)
  • DO NOT echo student questions or answers.
  • DO NOT give lengthy task introductions.

Teacher Talking Time (TTT) versus Student Talking Time (STT)

  • Teacher Talking Time should be short, precise, concise, simple to understand and kept to a minimum.
  • Student Talking Time is a priority. The amount of STT during the class should be kept as high as possible.

Teacher talking time follows the KISS principle – Keep It Short and Simple.